Andrea Funk

By: Andrea Funk on June 26th, 2017

Print/Save as PDF

How to Save Money on a T-shirt Quilt

Finding a T-shirt Quilt Maker  |  How Much Do T-shirt Quilts Cost  |  Comparing T-shirt Quilts

A well-made T-shirt quilt, made with high quality materials will cost more than you may have imagined.  You might even be having sticker shock. “What are they trying to do, rip me off?” No, not at all. That’s just how much a well-made T-shirt quilt, made with high quality materials costs.

So how can you save money on your T-shirt quilt? Here are 3 things to look for to help you find a quilt maker that can make you a quilt or blanket for less. 

Below are 3 major areas in the T-shirt quilt making process where you can cut cost. Each is broken down to explain where the cost savings comes from. To help you understand the trade-offs between cost savings and how a quilt looks, feels and wears, there is also an explanation of how these cost savings will influence your quilt. 

Quilt Style - A Single Size Block Quilt

Construction of the Quilt 

Materials Used in the Quilt

Style - a Single Size Block Quilt

To save money on a T-shirt quilt, choose a T-shirt quilt style in which all the blocks in the quilt are the same size. Quilts that use a single block size are called traditional style T-shirt quilts.  In these quilts, all the blocks are the same size and they are organized into rows and columns.

How exactly does having a T-shirt quilt made with just one block size save money? Here are 4 ways a quilter realizes the cost savings:

cutting templates needed for a t-shirt quilt 1. Only one cutting template is needed to cut out the T-shirts.

The first step in making a T-shirt quilt is to cut the logos or graphics on T-shirts into blocks. To cut blocks the correct size, a cutting template is used. The quilter will place a cutting mat inside the T-shirt and lay it flat on a work surface. Then a cutting template is laid on the T-shirt and the block is cut out with a rotary cutter.

If there is only one size block in a quilt, all the blocks will be cut with the same template. One template and only one spot to set the template between cuts, makes cutting simple and fast. It also eliminates the need for a skilled employee, thus the cost savings.

In a T-shirt quilt made with many different size and shaped blocks, there are over 20 templates that can be used. This means 19 times the cost in the templates and the need to have 19 additional spots to set the templates between cuts. This makes the cutting location set up more complex and it means a more skilled artisan. And this translates into a higher cost.

2. There are no decisions to make about what size or shape template to use.

which template fits best on a t-shirt design for a quiltWith only one cutting template, there are no decisions to make. You cut out the block with the one template. Then you put the block into a single stack. This makes the job quick and it saves money.

If you have a T-shirt quilt made with many different size pieces, the person cutting the T-shirts has to be knowledgeable to choose the right size template for the graphic on the T-shirt. You might think that this would be very easy, but it’s not.

There are many different judgments that have to be made as you work. Again, this involves a trained artisan and it takes more time.

You also end up with many different size stacks of T-shirt blocks. This means that you will need a larger work area.

More time, more equipment, a larger work area and a skilled artisan all translates into a more expensive quilt.

3. There is no math involved in figuring the quilt size.

A T-shirt quilt company making a one size block T-shirt quilt from your T-shirts won’t have to do any math. They told you how many images they can use for a particular size quilt, and that’s how many you sent. After they cut your T-shirts into blocks, they can move directly to sewing.

a T-shirt quilt takes mathA T-shirt quilt made with many different block sizes involves a lot of math. The area of each block and how many of each block size has to be figured. Then you have to convert the entire area of all your blocks into a width and a length of the quilt. This involves a square root! (√) Remember that from math class?

A quilt made from many different size blocks figuring the quilt size takes time and experience. This means it will cost more.

4. There is not a layout of the quilt to figure out.

making a map.jpgQuilts made from one block size are laid out in columns and rows. That’s all you need to know. It’s very, very easy and does not require any time or thought. Thus, a quilt made this way will save you money.

Figuring the layout for a T-shirt quilt made from many different size and shape blocks involves puzzling together the different pieces into a quilt map layout. There are no two quilts alike, thus every single quilt has to be laid out. This takes time and time equals money.

How does this effect your quilt?

block with too much space in a t-shirt quiltChoosing a T-shirt quilt made with the same size block will save you a lot of money. But there is a great sacrifice in the look of your quilt. Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Same size block quilts are made in columns and rows. The look of this style of quilt is static and uninteresting. 
  2. Because there is only one size block, the graphics on your T-shirts will be cropped off if they are larger than that block size. If the graphic is much smaller than the block size, there will be too much margin around the design and it might not be centered on the block. See the photo here - the white graphic has a lot of wasted space around the design. It looks bad.
  3. Small designs on the arms of a T-shirt cannot be used.
  4. If you don’t have the right number of images for a particular quilt size, you would have to either go up to the next size quilt, remove T-shirts or have blank areas in your quilt that are just as large as all your other blocks.

Below - the first photo is the T-shirt that was used in both quilts. The second photo is an example of a block that was cropped off. The third photo shows this same T-shirt cut correctly. In the block in the first photo, you totally lose the word "Motorcycle!" 

  T-shirts with large designs for quilts  Image cropped off a t-shirt in a quilt  Image on a T-shirt correctly sized for a T-shirt quilt

I would suggest you look at photos of a lot of T-shirt quilts and decide what style you like best and then work from that starting point.

Which quilt would you want?

Both are made with the exact same group of T-shirts. The left one is a very simple blanket made by Project Repat and the quilt on the right is a Too Cool T-shirt quilt.

Compare Project Repat to Too Cool T-shirt Quilts


Discover more about having a quilt made with your T-shirts. Consider downloading our T-shirt Quilt Buyers Guide.
It's will help you know what you want your quilt to look like and what to look for in a quilt maker. 

T-shirt Quilt Buying Guide


Back to the top↑

Construction of the Quilt

Another way to save money on a T-shirt quilt is to choose a T-shirt quilt company or maker who takes short cuts in construction. 

Below are explanations of six parts of the quilt making process which can be sacrificed to cut the cost of a quilt. There is also an explanation of how these cost savings will effect your quilt.

Seams does not meet1. Choose a company that doesn’t fix sewing errors.

Look for a T-shirt quilt company or quilter that does not fix their errors. You will see this on the face of the quilt. Blocks will not align, corners will not meet, and there might even be holes.

How does this save money?

  1. The quilt top is not reviewed after the sewing is completed. This saves money because no one has to take a few minutes to look for errors.
  2. No time is spent ripping out and replacing seams that are not perfect.
  3. Expert seamstresses are not required; thus the company can save money by paying lower wages.

How does this effect your quilt? 

  1. Blocks will not be aligned.
  2. Corners will not come together perfectly.
  3. You will see the poor workmanship every time you look at your quilt. 

2. Have a Blanket Rather Than a Quilt Made

Fleece on the back of a blanket made with T-shirtA quilt is made up of three layers and a blanket two. Look for a company that uses polar fleece on the back of their blankets and does no quilting. Read more about the differences between a quilt and a blanket here. 

How does this save money?

  1. There is not any time spent quilting the quilt.
  2. There is no investment in a long-arm quilting machine – these cost about the same as a small car.
  3. Since no batting is used in a blanket, batting does not have to be purchased so this cost savings can be passed on to you.
  4. Without a long-arm quilting machine, there is no need for expensive special quilting threads.
  5. Generally, T-shirt blankets do not have bindings – this is also a cost saver.
  6. A long arm quilting machine takes up a lot of space. Without having to have one, a much smaller work space is needed.

How does this effect your quilt? 

  1. You won’t have a quilt – it will be a blanket.
  2. The face of the quilt and backing fabric will not be connected and thus it will wear poorly.
  3. Longevity is suspect.

3. Find a Quilter Who Does a Minimal Amounts of Quilting

Long-arm quilting machineQuilting holds the quilt top, batting and backing together. To save money, look for quilts that have less and more spread out quilting. In the photo to the right, you are seeing nearly the entire back of the quilt. This is not enough quilting to hold the three layers together well. More about long-arm quilting.

How does this save money?

  1. The quilt will spend less time on the long arm machine, thus freeing the machine up to do another quilt.
  2. The less quilting there is, the lower the labor cost per quilt.
  3. Less thread will be used.

How does this effect your quilt? 

  1. There will not be enough quilting to hold the quilt top, batting, and backing together. The result will be that the batting will bunch and wad up over time.
  2. The quilt will look cheap.

Check out the two quilts below. The quilt on the left is a Campus Quilt quilt and the one on the right is a Too Cool T-shirt Quilt. The quilts are about the same size. Can you see the difference? The quilt on the left is minimally quilted! Hardly enough to keep the three layers together. 

back of too cool vs back of campus quilt.jpeg

4. Look for a quilt where the quilting only use 4 to 5 stitches per inch.

4 stitches per inch is a basting stitch and bad on a T-shirt quilt10 stitches per inch in a T-shirt quiltQuilts are typically quilted with 10 to 12 stitches per inch. Although 4 to 5 stitches per inch is considered a basting stitch, many major T-shirt quilt companies choose to use this for their quilting.

How does this save money?

  1. Less thread will be used.
  2. The quilting time is cut in half, thus the labor to quilt the quilt is cut in half. 

How does this effect your quilt? 

  1. The stitches will not hold over time.
  2. The stitches will come un stitched easily.
  3. The stitches can be easily caught on objects and snagged.
  4. The quilt will look cheap.

5. Choose a Quilt Without a Binding

No binding T-shirt quilt - badAll quality quilts have full binding. The binding covers the raw edges of the quilt top, batting and backing. To save money look for a quilt company that does not bind their quilts. They will use a birthing or pillow case method. And also note that you will not be getting a quilt, it will be a blanket. Read more about binding methods here.

How does this save money?

  1. Sewing on a binding takes skill – with no binding, a skilled sewer is not required and thus entry-level labor can be used.
  2. Using a birthing method saves time and thus, lowers the labor cost.
  3. Since the backing is sewn to the quilt top and then turned inside out, additional fabric will not be needed for the binding.

How does this effect your quilt? 

  1. Your blanket will look like it was made in a hurry.
  2. If the backing or blanket top are not exactly the same size, the one side will roll up into the other.
  3. Your blanket will look like it was made by a grade-schooler. The birthing method of blanket making is what is taught to school children when they are doing a sewing project.

6. Choose a Quilter That Uses a Half Binding Method

half binding t-shirt quilt - uglyTo make a half binding, the backing material is folded around to the front of the quilt and then sewn down. See photo.

How does this save money?

  1. This type of binding does not require a skilled sewer thus it lowers production cost.
  2. This type of binding is very fast to do, so it saves time and labor.
  3. Since the binding is made from the backing material, no additional fabric is required for the binding.
  4. Since the binding is the backing fabric, no color choices need to be made, saving time.

How does this effect your quilt? 

  1. You won’t have the option to use a contrasting colored binding.
  2. The quilt will have a cheap, hurried feel to it.
  3. It will lack sophistication.

Back to the top↑

Materials Used in the Quilt

thread used to quilt a T-shirt quiltA final way to save money on a T-shirt quilt is to choose a T-shirt quilt company or maker who uses the cheapest materials and does not handle them correctly.

Below is explanation of how the quality and type of materials used along with how they are used can cut the cost of a T-shirt quilt.  There is also an explanation of how these cost savings will effect your quilt.

1. Choose a quilter that uses inexpensive fabric, batting and thread.

How does using inexpensive fabric, batting and thread save money? The less money a quilt company or quilter has to spend on fabric, batting and thread, the less a quilt will cost.These saving are reflected in the price of a T-shirt quilt.

How does this effect your quilt? 

  1.  Inexpensive materials are less durable and as a result, your quilt will not last as long.
  2. Your quilt will feel bad to the touch because cheap backing fabric feels rough and scratchy.
  3. Cheap batting will bunch and wad up after just a wash or two.
  4. No one will fight over your quilt when you die.

2. Find a T-shirt quilt company that doesn’t pre-wash the backing material.

backing material for a T-shirt quilt should be washedAll backing materials should be washed before they are used in a quilt or blanket. This ensure that the fabric won’t shrink or bleed after it has been made into your quilt.

To find a company that does not pre-wash their fabric, look for companies that tell you to dry-clean a T-shirt quilt. Or ask! The only time a T-shirt quilt should be dry-cleaned is when there is a dry-clean only item in the quilt. T-shirt quilts should be machine washable.

How does this save money?

  1. If backing fabrics are not washed before they are used, laundry facilities are unneeded. This saves the cost of the machines, the infrastructure to have washing machines and the cost to run the machines.
  2. No laundry detergent will need to be purchased.
  3. Labor is saved because no one is spending time doing laundry.
  4. There is not a lag time between cutting the fabric and using it so there is no need to match it up with the quilt.

How does this effect your quilt? 

  1. You will need to dry-clean your quilt.
  2. If you don’t dry-clean, the backing material will shrink, which will cause the batting to bunch up.
  3. If you or someone mistakenly washed the quilt, the backing material’s color could bleed and ruin your T-shirts.
  4. You will be less likely to use your quilt because of the fear of getting it dirty and having to take it to the dry cleaners.

3. Choose a T-shirt quilt company that offers a limited number of backing color choices.

How many colors do you want to choose from for your t-shirt quiltYou can also save money on your T-shirt quilt by choosing a company that has a limited number of backing material color choices. Some companies only have 10 colors to choose from.

How does this save money?

  1. There is no need to inventory, purchase, store and maintain multiple color fabrics.
  2. Since only a few colors are needed, a company can purchase fabric in huge quantities. This lowers the cost per yard of fabric.
  3. A company does not have to find a matching color to customer’s color sample or request, thus saving time or the need to order fabric in a unique color. 

How does this effect your quilt? 

  1. this is fuchsia not crimson!You will have a limited choice of backing colors to choose from.
  2. The backing color you chose might not be the color you think it was.
  3. For instance, one company calls a color crimson (a dark red) and in reality, the color was fuchsia (a dark, pinkish red). See unedited photo of the back of this quilt. If you purchased a quilt for your son from this company and had requested crimson for the back of his quilt, he would have been disappointed. He probably would never use his quilt with the fuchsia pink backing fabric.
  4. Your quilt will look like every other quilt the company makes. 

Back to the top↑

Conclusion

There are any number of ways to save money on a T-shirt quilt.  From the style of the quilt to the construction and materials used in your quilt, you can pay less for your T-shirt quilt somewhere else other than here at Too Cool T-shirt Quilts. 

Remember, all the cost savings above are short cuts a quilter chooses. Some of the cost will be passed onto you while other cost savings will go into your quilter’s pocket.

You just need to be sure that you can live with the quilt you get back.

You usually get what you pay for!

 


Discover more about having a quilt made with your T-shirts. Consider downloading our T-shirt Quilt Buyers Guide.
It's will help you know what you want your quilt to look like and what to look for in a quilt maker. 

T-shirt Quilt Buying Guide